In Deep Red Tennessee, Voters in Nashville Stick With Progressive in Mayoral Race

Winner Freddie O’Connell will be the fourth mayor in five years after turmoil in the past several administrations.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Voters in Nashville, a Democrat stronghold within the confines of deep red Tennessee, chose to elect the progressive candidate over the conservative candidate in a Thursday, Sept. 14, runoff election for mayor.

Despite a Vanderbilt University poll from earlier this year that indicated more than half of Nashvillians believed the city was headed in the wrong direction, voters chose the candidate with political views similar to the current mayor rather than voting for a major shakeup.

Progressive candidate and current Metro Council member Freddie O’Connell handily defeated conservative Alice Rolli to become the fourth mayor the city has had in the past five years after turmoil in the mayor’s office throughout the past several administrations.

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Over 114,000 residents cast their votes, with just over 68,000 of those votes cast during 14 days of early voting. Mr. O’Connell took 64 percent of the total vote, including Election Day, early voting, and absentee voting, according to preliminary results.

Mr. O’Connell was first elected to the Metro Council in 2015 and served two full terms prior to his mayoral victory.

He was the first candidate to announce he was running for mayor, even before the current mayor announced he was not running for reelection.

He outraised his runoff opponent threefold, with a local record-breaking $1.2 million raised for the runoff election compared to his opponent’s $441,729.

Priorities for Nashvillians

Nashville’s next mayor will have to navigate a relationship with the state government that has been contentious over the past few years.

The relationship has soured as the state Legislature has passed laws that have fundamentally changed the city, while the city has decried the actions as government overreach, and several of the legislative measures are being argued in court.

Voter Mark Brown, 58, said that in this year’s mayoral election, the integrity of candidates was most important for him.

“The Republicans have become the party of ignorance, hatred, and fanaticism,” he told The Epoch Times on Thursday. “Nashville is an open and progressive city. Our leadership should reflect that. Also, we need effective gun control and checks on corporate greed.”

He said Nashville is diverse and thriving, and while growth can be difficult to handle, the quality of life in Nashville has remained “good.”

“Some Nashvillians complain about tourism, but since we’re saddled with a sale-tax based revenue stream, tourism is our best bet.”

He added he was optimistic about the new leadership in Nashville, knowing most of them personally, and had faith in their leadership, but noted they would have to contend with the state government which often holds opposite views from the Democrat-led city.

“However, state government in Tennessee is incompetent and authoritarian,” he said. “Our new leaders must fight their aggression vigorously.”

Other issues that have been the focus of debates and campaigns have been a lack of affordable housing and public transit.

O’Connell’s Challengers

Ms. Rolli was notably the only viable Republican candidate in the race. She worked in former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration.

Conservative candidate for Mayor of Nashville Alice Rolli. (Courtesy of Alice Rolli Campaign)
Conservative candidate for Mayor of Nashville Alice Rolli. (Courtesy of Alice Rolli Campaign)

Ms. Rolli likely benefited in the general election and made her way to the runoff election from the splitting of the rest of the liberal vote, as several other candidates with liberal views were in the race, including an economic development official under the last three mayors, two Democrat state senators, and a Democrat property assessor in Davidson County.

Ms. Rolli worked in Mr. Haslam’s economic development office under now-U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and managed the 2014 reelection campaign of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

The same situation shook out in 2015, when a Republican candidate advanced to a runoff but was defeated by 10 points by former Mayor Megan Barry, the city’s first female mayor.

Ms. Barry, who resigned from office in 2018 amid a scandal involving an extramarital affair with her security detail and pleading guilty to felony theft, ran on a campaign of public transportation for the city.

She led a campaign and eventual ballot referendum—which was voted down just months after she resigned—that would have raised sales taxes and commercial taxes to add light rail and rapid bus transit lines along main corridors in the city.

Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and as such public transportation has become a central part of many public policy discussions.

What Led to Such a Crowded Race

A total of 12 candidates had their hat in the very crowded ring for Nashville’s top job, although some of the candidates threw their support behind other candidates prior to Election Day.

The mayoral race for the combined city-county metropolitan government in Nashville is nonpartisan, although the city has been reliably Democratic in state and federal races for decades, as well as in newly partisan school board elections last year.

Current Mayor John Cooper announced earlier this year he would not seek a second term, following a tenure of contentious decisions by city officials and a number of tragedies.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper speaks during an event in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 13, 2020. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
Nashville Mayor John Cooper speaks during an event in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 13, 2020. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

He led the city through the approval of a new multibillion-dollar stadium for the Tennessee Titans, the contentious negotiations to host the 2024 Republican National Convention (which the city eventually decided against hosting), tornadoes, a Christmas Day bombing in 2020, and most recently the Covenant School shooting.

“Now [after] a great deal of thought and prayer and talking with my wonderful wife, I have decided to not seek reelection as Nashville’s mayor,” he told reporters in a January press conference. “I have no doubt there are and will be many exceptional people applying for the job. They should. We need them to. … I hope Nashville’s next mayor will use the platform we have created and build on it.”

Adding to the list of mayors over the past five years, Ms. Barry was succeeded by interim Mayor David Briley, who went on to win a special election to fill the remainder of Ms. Barry’s term. He was then defeated by Mr. Cooper by nearly 40 points.

Mr. Cooper was the first candidate to defeat an incumbent mayor seeking reelection in the history of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, which was established in 1963.

While Nashville’s mayoral elections are nonpartisan, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Briley, and Ms. Barry all declared they were Democrats. Mr. Cooper did not endorse any of the candidates running for his seat.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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